9 Signs You’re Not on Your Path, and What To Do About It

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Brand You / Creativity / Motivation

Are you following your path?

Do you know exactly what makes you passionate?

We are not born with a path laid out for us, like so many of the gurus tout. That’s entitlement thinking, and another reason to sit back and wait for life to happen to you.

You need to become aware of your passion and choose your path accordingly.

We are activated when we identify a path that resonates with us as individuals. Not as humans, but individuals.

When you do things that are in line with your own blend of passion, which in turn guides your various life missions, this is the equivalent of an on-switch that enlivens all of us to move deliberately.

Defining my passion took me a full year to figure out, but everything I do, down to the choices I make at the grocery shop, are guided by my passion, and the path I am building for myself.

I will tell you what my passion is shortly.

Life has not been better since I’ve been aware of what really motivates me consciously.

Only you can figure out what it is that truly drives you; gets you motivated; gets you emotional and gets you acting with awareness and decisiveness.

Often passion comes out of having an enemy of some kind. This enemy does not need to be human, it can be a state of affairs. I will talk about this in more detail another time.

Having been both on and off my path several times in life – from depressed despair all the way to being completely content and driven – I’ve learned some things that I know are indicators of whether you are on the path or not.

1. You’re ‘snowed under’

Listen to the language people use when they describe their circumstances.

People who are in full alignment with their passion will say they have a lot to do, or they are busy, or they have a lot to get done.

Their language is of an owner. An owner of their own circumstances. They are the boss and they are on a mission.

Those who are not on their path will say things like they are ’snowed under’, ‘burned out’ or overwhelmed. The hardships of life are happening to them. They are the victim.

‘Burn out’ is not possible if you are doing what you are passionate about.

Passion should make you obsessed. Obsession and burn out are alien to one another.

Be passionate with purpose and never experience burn out, no matter how much you have to do, ever again.

2. You’re reading articles about being on your path

This one’s a bit of a joke, because some of you may be pretty damn passionate, but just here to see whether you’ve missed any thing. You know, on the off-chance.

Or you might be here for reasons other than absorbing my point, such as getting a feel for my writing-style.

But seriously, if you’re reading this and you haven’t closed the page yet, you might not be as obsessed with your mission as you think, with as much clarity as you require.

3. You or others are not concerned about your own sanity

I don’t believe there is a single path you can be on that is guided by your true passion that does not at least make others occasionally question or criticise you.

If you aren’t at least getting occasional bemused comments from others about how you choose to attack your goals, then you’re probably playing it too safe, and not applying enough gas to the vehicle that will (metaphorically) take you down that path.

One of the biggest paradoxes of life is the fact that people are most internally motivated when they are going against the grain of what others expect of them (never initially, because that is often painful, but when they realise that they can ‘get away with it’).

‘Society’ is holding you back with more force than you will ever likely understand.

Society, as a general concept, will always inherently be anti-passion; anti-individual. Why? Because society, by its very nature is sustained by the existence of the crowd.

No true passion is rooted to conformity. We’re built to break free. You will know you’re on your path when people begin to criticise you; think you’re a little crazy or are ’obsessed’.

Be crazy, friend.

4. You compare yourself to others

This is one of the surest ways to know you need a little shift in direction. Do your damn thing.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. A huge amount can be gained from learning from the successes of others, but a lot can be lost as well.

Learn from your own successes.

You will never be happy if you compare yourself to someone else. You are not that person. You never will be. Instead, think how you can do things differently to others, in your own way.

You will never be on your path until you can accept yourself for who you are, and embody that person in everything you do, with a generous helping of pride and a dash of humility.

5. You complain that too many bloggers write ‘list’ posts

No comment.

6. You are not able to tell someone your passion in one sentence

To work with real passion means knowing what that passion is with clarity. This will take some time, like it did for me.

Having tweaked the way I describe my own passion, this is what it is currently. It fires me up every time I read it:

To help underdogs realise their value so that they can make an impact on the world with their art, and enliven others to do the same.

The beauty of this sentence for me, is its depth and its ability to sustain itself. The wheels of motion are set in play as soon as one underdog realises his talent and puts it to work to make an impact on other underdogs.

In most cases, your passion will be closely linked to an injustice you yourself suffered at some point in your life, in the way that my own progression as a man has been stunted on many occasions growing up.

In my case, the enemy is society. The enemy is social programming. The enemy is political correctness and mediocrity that turns people into zombies and stunts the development of the expressive artist that lies in every one of us.

Writing these articles is easy for me, because it is directly guided by my own, identified passion.

Know your passion with clarity. It will change your life.

7. You are not dominating one thing at a time

A frequent struggle amongst a lot of you is deciding on what to do and whether it’s wise to do several things at once.

My answer: It is ok to do many things, as long as they are in line with these two criteria:

1. You have to have reached that point by absolutely nailing each and every one of those things one step at a time.

2. They can occupy your time once you’ve mastered one thing. You can not start on your path by doing several things at once.

Your journey starts by committing to doing one thing, in line with your passion, and dominating your corner with that thing. Focus on something that you can really shine and stand out with. Get amazing at that thing and wow your tribe, your audience or your customers with that thing.

Then, when you’ve really mastered it (or realised it’s not something that contributes to your mission), can you move on to the next thing.

You’re building an empire with a solid foundation with your skills and experiences, rather than jumping from one swampy island to the next.

8. You are not actively eliminating your vices

Vices are – by their very nature – things that will hold you back. Whether it’s smoking, distraction and social media, being negative, drinking, eating crap, sloth or drugs, these don’t help you stay on your path.

If you’re on your path, you would do whatever it takes to achieve those missions you are setting for yourself.

I’m not saying eliminate everything that holds you back if it gives you brief pleasure. That can be helpful. But those on their path take any notable setbacks to their progress very seriously.

You would therefore be doing your damnedest to identify and eliminate vices that hold you back.

9. You rarely follow through

I just got home from a full body massage here in Saigon, Vietnam. I’ve had many over the last eight months here. One thing I’ve been able to get a very strong sense of is the extent to which the various masseuses here love what they do.

Bear with me.

Most of the women do a great job and massage with force, which I need, as a big lad. Most are average, a select few are amazing, but I have had some massages that are more excruciating than enjoyable.

I don’t mean that they are painful, more that, the masseuse does not follow through with each stroke. There is no passion, no care in their work, and it is extremely unsatisfying as a customer.

When I get a half-measure massage, I am angry. I would rather have spent that time doing something else.

Laugh all you like, but this is the best way to prove this point that I can think of.

Half-measures with no follow through are average. It is what happens when you do just enough. It’s what happens when you watch the clock for home time.

This is the embodiment of mediocrity. It is also the approach taken by most of the world, because most people are not following their paths.

The world needs people who are alive in what they have chosen to do who follow through on their tasks and actions.

This applies to so many things. Those that are passionately on their course finish their strokes.

They all follow through.

The golfer swings right the way through the ball. The artist doesn’t half-heartedly paint a picture. They put everything into each of their paintings.

The motorbike pro commits to each turn and accelerates through them. He doesn’t take his foot off the gas at the crucial moments.

If you rarely follow through; if you rarely finish a project; and if you rarely put your all into a task, you are not likely on your path.

What path are you on?

The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

26 Comments

  1. Lisa Maltby says

    This is such a tricky one because I have felt ‘not on the right path’ for years, working at a graphic design agency, churning out other people’s designs and for big corporate companies. It feels a little soulless. I am also a freelance illustrator but I have found the work sporadic and hard to define what my actual passion is due to the fact that I’m focussing on trying to make a living out of it so I can quit my day job. I also write a lot of blogs – one on art, encouraging other artists, and one on motherhood, exposing some of the taboos in a (hopefully) heartwarming and humorous way. Similarly I write and illustrate books for children (so far been rejected by numerous publishers and agents) which deal with issues of self esteem. So, writing this it’s clear that my passion is making others feel a sense of worth through my honesty. The trouble is that I need to make a living too and it’s hard to fully let my hair down when it’s not guaranteed to make an income. I can’t carry on trying to juggle everything on top of my day job and raising a family. Sometimes my true passions feel quite ‘weighty’ instead of the joy that they should be (even though when I am ACTUALLY doing them they never feel this way). Anyway, sorry for rambling, I think writing things down just helps me to work things out!! If you want to see my blogs they can be found at http://www.lisamaltby.com and http://www.motherdiaries.com 🙂

    • Alex Mathers says

      Great input, Lisa. It is vital that you start minimalising as much as you can. One thing at a time, then you can expand when you have the means to. Does that make sense?

      • Lisa Maltby says

        Thanks Alex. God, I dont half ramble, sorry! Yes, I think that makes sense. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time though when you’re passionate about everything except your day job. He he 😉

  2. Gah I love this post, Alex! I see a lot of similarities in a post I recently published, called What it looks like when you have found your passion (http://www.hellobrio.com/2015/02/your-passion.html).

    I LOVE your mission statement and how it specifies underdogs. No wonder I love your blog so much. It’s just been one of those things that I can’t quite put my finger on, but now that you’ve said it, it’s exactly that.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks Jennifer, Great work. Keep reading. I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts.

  3. I could contemplate that header photo for hours, sitting with my back to a tree. With a picnic lunch. Want a cupper? We are all friends on this journey. Not all of us are on a creative path. But those who are, know the difference. We use our well-developed empathy and vivid imagination to see a better world. I feel slightly milquetoast saying that. But we are thoughtful and kind. And Alex, that’s why we follow you. Gotta go, but wanted to mention a missing word. #4 You compare yourself to others. Do your ‘own’ thing.

  4. Petra Kemkova says

    I guess, I’m getting a feel for your writing-style 😉 Just wanted to say hello! And welcome back from Vietnam.

  5. Constanze says

    Hi Alex, I think there’s 2 things to it… One thing is to have a mission obviously, but I think personality always plays a role as well. If you’re by nature motivated to do things and are optimistic, you’re more likely to find your mission, or once you found it to keep going. If you have a discouraged personality I think that once you found your mission, you have to work a lot harder to stay on track, focussed and not get discouraged by lack of success or opposition. Maybe I’m mixing two things here, but this was my first thought when reading.

    • Alex Mathers says

      you could have a point Constanze – would love to hear more.

  6. Linet Andrea says

    I can feel the empowerment you wish for us all! Thankyou Alex.

  7. Bea288 says

    Great thoughts Alex, thank you very much for sharing. It was really inspiring to read this! Keep up your great work and your Blog.

  8. Nitzy @Arlo'sHouse says

    Alex, your point of view is pretty interesting and an optimistic proof that you can get back on your feet even if everything seems wrong. Keep up your amazing articles and your blog!

  9. I love the massage analogy, completely agree with that. Also, I think there AREN’T enough list blogs heh, more, more I say. Great words as always Alex.

  10. Wendy Dixon-Whiley says

    How funny – I just had a lightbulb moment reading #6 and I now have a 3 word ‘mission statement’. Not sure why it didn’t click before (I’ve had more wordy versions of the same, but they somehow didn’t get to the essence of what I do), obviously something in this post tapped into that part of my brain!

  11. This is such a great post. I know without a doubt that I am on my right path. I knew that before even reading this article because when you are on the right path, I think you just “know”, but it was great to see it affirmed with the points that you make! Thanks!

    Lisa Scott
    http://www.theworrygames.com

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